There was perhaps no better image of City Hall’s political divide than the attendance at Friday’s special Board of Supervisors meeting.
Only the six progressive board members who called the meeting showed up where they voted to bypass the usual legislative process after criticizing moderates for bottlenecking — or posing such a threat — proposals related to the November ballot.
The five moderates on the board did not attend.
It was the first time in at least the past 15 years that a special board meeting was called by six members of the board. Usually when they are called — which is still a rare move — it’s by the board president.
That’s why some around City Hall were calling this maneuver a political power play, or more colorfully a palace coup.
But progressives said they had little recourse as the deadline looms to place measures on the November ballot. They argued that while they have a board majority, Board of Supervisors President London Breed chose earlier this year to create board committees run by moderate majorities.
Breed denounced the move Thursday in a text message. “Politics at its worse [sic] and I’m not going to be a part of it,” she wrote.
Peskin, however, said Breed was nothing but cordial when he told her about it and he offered no apologies Friday for employing the parliamentary tactic, saying he was only “using rules that have existed for many decades to ensure the majority rule – it’s a democratic meeting with the majority of the body.”
As for the moderates’ no-show to the 5:15 p.m. meeting, Peskin said, “It would be collegial had they shown up but it’s their right not to show up and I respect that.”
One moderate, Supervisor Mark Farrell, offered a statement for why he was absent: “I was spending time with my family.”
The unusual legislative tactic bolstered the progressive bloc’s political leverage and ensures two ballot measures put forward by that political camp can make the deadline to end up on the November ballot in the form they desire.
Those measures are a public advocate charter amendment proposed by Supervisor David Campos and a charter amendment proposed by Peskin that would create a commission to oversee the Mayor’s Office of Housing as well as Economic and Workforce Development.
The special board meeting lasted about 30 minutes. In the end, the board voted 6-0, with Campos serving as acting board president, to pull from the board’s Rules Committee the housing commission measure and schedule special board meetings — including one on July 29, the deadline to place charter amendments on the ballot — to ensure Campos’ version of the public advocate measure can make it to the November ballot.
The committee, chaired by Supervisor Katy Tang, sent an amended version that Campos opposed to the full board last week. Supervisor Malia Cohen was the deciding vote on that three-member committee.
Friday’s vote gives Campos time to amend the measure back to the version he supports.
Additionally, the board voted to pull from committee Peskin’s pledge resolution that would set a policy to not put on the ballot any homeless related measures, which takes aim at Farrell’s homeless encampment measure as progressives and some homeless advocates are trying to convince Farrell to remove it.
That homeless encampment measure has also become tied up in a debate over whether the board will place on the November ballot the mayor’s proposed .75 percent sales tax hike, which goes before the board Tuesday.
“What we are doing here today is very important,” Campos told the San Francisco Examiner after Friday’s vote. “It’s about what will get to be on the ballot. It’s unfortunate that we are where we are but at the end of the day we each have a job to do and that’s what we are trying to do here.”
Aaron PeskinBoard of SupervisorsDavid CamposEric MarJane KimJohn AvalosLondon BreedNorman YeePoliticsSan Francisco